Letter: Dutch shipwreck could be saved with ingenuity

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The Independent Online
Sir: The problem over the involvement of English Heritage in the rescue of the wreck of the Amsterdam does not depend on whether or not the wreck site is within "England". The actual problem lies in the small print of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, within the framework of which English Heritage has to work. Section 61 of the 1979 Act declares that a wreck protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 - as is the Amsterdam - is not an ancient monument. English Heritage is only empowered to get involved in sites that are "ancient monuments".

If the Amsterdam was not a Protected Wreck, then the situation would be simple. The Secretary of State for National Heritage has the power to schedule wreck sites in "territorial waters off the coast of England" as ancient monuments. Once scheduled as an ancient monument, the Amsterdam would be entitled to whatever assistance English Heritage was able to give.

There are ways round the statutory non-involvement of English Heritage. A UK-based scheme for the consolidation in situ of the Amsterdam, possibly accompanied by further excavation, would be eligible in principle for submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund for grant aid.

The Heritage Lottery Fund, in turn, would consult the appropriate experts - which could, in fact, include English Heritage.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Arnold

Walsall, West Midlands

27 June